Extension News

Ask the ISU Experts

Note to media editors: Got gardening questions? Call the Hortline at (515) 294-3108, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., or e-mail us at hortline@iastate.edu. For more gardening information, visit us at Yard and Garden Online, http://www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu


How do I pot up an amaryllis bulb? 

When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot that is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plant the bulb in good, well-drained potting soil.  Add a small amount of potting soil in the bottom of the pot.  Center the bulb in the middle of the pot.  Then add additional potting soil, firming it around the roots and bulb.  When finished potting, the upper one-half to two-thirds of the bulb should remain above the soil surface.  Also, leave about one inch between the soil surface and the pot’s rim.  Then water well and place in a warm (70 to 75 degrees F) location. 
After the initial watering, allow the soil to dry somewhat before watering again.  Keep the soil moist, but not wet.  When growth appears, move the plant to a sunny window and apply a water-soluble fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks.  During flower stalk elongation, turn the pot each day to keep the flower stalk growing straight.  Flower stalks that lean badly may need staking. 
Flowering usually occurs about six to eight weeks after potting.  When the amaryllis begins to bloom, move the plant to a slightly cooler (65 to 70 degrees F) location that doesn’t receive direct sun to prolong the life of the flowers.
What are hedge apples? 

The “hedge apple” is the yellow-green, softball-sized fruit of the Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera).  The Osage-orange is a small- to medium-sized tree.  It commonly grows 30 to 40 feet tall.  The Osage-orange is dioecious.  Dioecious plants produce male and female flowers on separate plants.  Small green flowers appear on trees in May or June.  The female tree produces 4- to 5-inch-diameter fruit that ripen in September or October and fall to the ground.  Osage-orange fruit are also called “hedge balls.”  The common names “hedge apple” and “hedge ball” are derived from the widespread use of Osage-orange trees as hedges by farmers in the mid-nineteenth century. 

While somewhat attractive, the fruit have little value.  “Hedge apples” are not an important food source for wildlife as most birds and animals find the fruit unpalatable.  Some individuals claim the fruit control insects in the home.  Placement of “hedge apples” around the foundation or inside the basement is claimed to provide relief from cockroaches, spiders, boxelder bugs and other pests.  While research at Iowa State University has found compounds within the Osage-orange fruit that repel cockroaches, whole fruit have not been proven to repel or control insects in homes. 

Should houseplants be fertilized in winter? 

Fertilization is generally not necessary during the winter months because most houseplants are growing very little or resting.  Indoor gardeners should fertilize their houseplants on a regular basis in spring and summer when the plants are actively growing. 


Contacts :

Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, rjauron@iastate.edu

Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, jmcguire@iastate.edu

No photos are available for use with this week's column.